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Christian, Are You This Courageous? Do you have this strength?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thoughts for our days:

10 “Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:10-11  TEV

A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great. And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth His Name, From age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking through the history, and how it affects the Church today.  Not just my congregation, or my denomination, but the entire family of God’s children.  And what it means to reform.

For example, in my news feed, this morning was a great story of Pope Francis and liturgical reform. If I dare say, it is very Lutheran.  At the same time, there are those who are trying, with intent or ignorance, to divide the church further.  Not in the hope of reform, but in the desire to keep what they know pure.  And in the process, lose what Luther found the greatest comfort in, the love and mercy of God. 

Ninety percent of the time I hear Luther’s classic hymn quoted in green above, it is done with the power and energy of a military anthem.  Full crescendo Organs, loud brass, even clashing cymbals, as if it is a call to battle, something to unite the forces of good behind as we go to war.

Given that it is derived in part from Psalm 46, I am not sure that interpretation is valid.  It is not a mighty anthem, but a recognition that we are not that strong, that we need a refuge, that we cannot have confidence if we are dealing with Satan or the World.  I see Luther, inspired by the Psalm, writing this to a soft broken melody of one who knows despair, who is confused and hurt, and who is beginning to realize his hope is found in the one who was nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus who is portrayed on the crucifix he sol tightly grasps. I see this as the resolution of a man who has searched for hope, finding it with his last gasp… the music of reeds and deep strings.. as the words are whispered out…. from broken, contrite spirits that are finding refuge… and rest.

We have to have the confidence to hide in CChrist we must depend on Jesus’ mercy and his patience and to seek and find refuge in Christ, who we are united to in our baptism.  

So stop fighting the world, stop striving against the powers of evil, (or those you just think are evil.) Have the courage, the confidence to trust in God.  He is dependable, He is the one who has the victory, and in Him…

we are safe.  we can rest.

TO do so takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength, to stay firmly planted in Jesus, despite every temptation to fight or flee.  It, in fact, takes far more to endure, to wait on Him.  Yet the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For the Spirit works through the church to remind us of this fact.

the Lord Almighty is with you, and God is your refuge.  AMEN!

Martin Luther – A Mighty Fortress is our God

Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print

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Stop the Noise!!!!

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:

5  Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7  My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8  O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)

179         Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.

These days are filled with noise, and if it weren’t enough to have noise, it is noise that in many cases can’t be trusted, no matter where it originates.  And as the noise grows, it gets louder and louder, as those making noise want to grab our attention

As I sit here in my home, I have no television on, no music playing through my Groove Ap, there is just the odd bird chirp, my fingers making noise on the keyboard, and my artificial valves clicking away.

It is odd, and uncomfortable at first, this silence.

It takes a moment to adjust, to move past the temptation to close my eyes,

And as I write, my mind drifts to Sunday morning, and the Body and Blood of Christ that I will give to HIs people, the nourishment they need.  My mind drifts to the people I know are dealing with high stress. who need healing of body, mind, and soul.  My mind drifts then to my own failures and stresses, some I would rather not deal with, but the silence drives me there, and there in the midst of my own brokenness, I find Jesus…

Hard at work, the craftsman of life, transforming my brokenness into something glorious, something that others can see that will cause them to praise God, and desire such a journey for themselves.  If that alone were the reason for my journey into silence, into the place where I have to leave my anxieties, grief, guilt, shame and pain in Christ’s hands, it would be perhaps enough…

Yet there He is, welcoming me into this place, relieving my burdens, and my sin, and in doing this, I realize the what defines His glory far beyond His power, authority, wisdom.  What defines His glory is, His love for us!

Do not be afraid of the silence, but be still, and find in that silence, your refuge in God.  Amen

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locatitemptation63). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Where is the Church?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. 17  If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18  Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Romans 12:9-18 (TEV)

Christian experience begins in the everyday world of communal experience. Today, the interior space in which Church is experienced is, for many, a foreign world. Nevertheless, this world continues to be a possibility, and it will be the task of religious education to open doors on the experiential space Church and to encourage people to take an interest in this kind of experience. When people share the same faith, when they pray, celebrate, rejoice, suffer, and live together, Church becomes “community” and thus a real living space that enables humanity to experience faith as a life-bringing force in daily life and in the crises of existence.

As a young believer, I watched the church betray and hurt people I loved.  I’ve seen it again recently, to more than one person.

It puts the words from Pope Benedict above in a different context, as he speaks of those for whom the experience of being the church is a foreign world.  We aren’t talking about those who are completely blinded to the gospel, we are talking about those who have had to seek refuge from the Church.

Why would the place described as the place where we “experience faith as a life bringing force in daily life and the crises of existence” be the place where such faith is snuffed?

Have we forgotten that the church is a body, that we are to have the same concern for everyone, weeping and laughing with them, That we are to try and live in peace with everyone? This is why we talk of church as a community, a communion, a fellowship.  Everyone is important, no one is to be silenced because they are drowned out by the crowd.

But how do we create this environment in the church?  How do train leaders to develop such a spirit, especially in a culture which promotes narcissism?  How do we do this in a culture which says we have to take care of things at home?

Pope benedict talks of the mission of religious education being to help people experience this – but how can they, if the church is more often seen as a cold and heartless place?

My answer may seem to simply, but it is the only one I’ve seen work.  That answer is to work on developing hearts full of devotion. This kind of church is not something naively discussed, but it occurs as God’s presence is revealed, and people adore Him, because of what His presence brings about, the lives of joy that His presence creates, strengthens, and sustain.

We find what people what we need, in the communion of saints, the communion that is fashioned by Jesus, and gathers and laughs and cries, as He laughs and cries with us… all as one.

This is where the church is, where it is experienced, where it goes and finds refuge from the world, and then brings others to experience that refuge.  AMEN

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.

The World is My… monastery?

Devotional thought of the day:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Philippians 2:14-16 (TEV) 

738 I will never share the opinion—though I respect it—of those who separate prayer from active life, as if they were incompatible. We children of God have to be contemplatives: people who, in the midst of the din of the throng, know how to find silence of soul in a lasting conversation with Our Lord, people who know how to look at him as they look at a Father, as they look at a Friend, whom they love madly.  (1)

One of my favorite writers in David Morrell, who weaves tales of intrigue which happen to include a lot of soul searching.  Often his heroes flirt with monasticism and the need for sanctuary and refuge.In one of my favorite stories, he starts in a monastery, located in one of my favorite places in the world – the mountainous forests of New England.  The monks live separately from each other, in three room cells – a work room, a bedroom, and a small prayer room in between.  Part of me craves that kind of life, only to come out of my cell for worship and communal prayer.

My work room would be musical and a library, my time spent writing, and dare I dream, composing music on guitar. Solitude, peace, quiet, .  If you know me well, you are porbably thinking that I would never stand it, the extrovert I am would be driven nuts in a place like that.  No electronics, no interaction with others?  Are you really kidding Dustin?

No, I would fill the time with music and plunging the depths of writers that it takes that kind of solitude to comprehend.  Pascal, Chesterton, Luther, Augustine, the Shepherd of Hermas, Douglas Adams.  ( I could keep going…)  To just play my guitar without thought of time, but focusing on playing to God.

I would love it – even as I realize it would take a week or two to get used to it.  Our need for refuge, for sanctuary seems to be growing exponentially, even as we face information overload, even as our lives become complicated by gadget, even controlled by them.  Even as communciation and agendas and pressures overwhelm and confuse us.

Unfortunately, that is not my reality.  It is not my call. I live in the “real” world.  And I thrive in helping people – especially helping them know God’s love.

So the question becomes… can I make the world my monastery?  Can i live life in such a way that it is my monastic workroom?  Where I invest myself, as I would in music, or in reading/comprehending, but with people?  Can I see these things as sacred and holy as spending time on my knees.  I am not like Luther, who saw little value in monstacism, I see a great benefit to the monastic lifestyle – but can we live our lives with such intent, with the peace that is found in such sanctuaries in the real world? Can we live, shining like stars, reflecting the glory and love of God in the midst of the darkness, the chaos, the stress?

That is one of the reason I would love to sit down with Josemaria, for 40 and 50 years ago, he seemed to be able to accomplish this.  Surely he had his struggles, he freely admitted them in his writings.  But somehow, from many different accounts, he was able to see the world as one complete work of God – that it was in the midst of the anxiety and stress where we shine brightest, where we can find the stillness of the soul, and the presence of God.

The world is my monastery?  Yeah – it is, when I am in coversation with God while in the middle of it all.

It is my sanctuary – when I realize I live in Him in it.

God’s peace is with us….an amazing, undescribable peace…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2671-2675). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stressed? Challenged? Attacked? Oppressed? Your reaction can be Fight or Flight…….or Trust and Testify

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Je...

Stained glass window of the sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in the former Mosque (Cathedral) of Cordoba, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

11  Boaz answered her: “I have had a complete account of what you have done for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death; you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know previously. 12  May the LORD reward what you have done! May you receive a full reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”   Ruth 2:11-12 (NAB) 

 5  You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:5-10 (NLT)

Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, my mind was working through all the issues of the week, and there were a number of serious ones.  Even two that sprang up a couple of hours before bed.   Some will be dealt with quickly, some are going to linger for months, and all of them have the potential to cause both anxiety and worse heartache.   I can often deal with the stress, and with others heartache, but when I encounter some things – and see the lack of grace, and concern for the people whom God has created, the heart ache is overwhelming.
Scientists from Biologist to Sociologists  talk about such times being the mechanism which fire off a “fight or flight” response.  That is, the trauma is such that we have an energy spike, and our reaction is to use that energy to run away and hide (the Elijah response – where is that cave again?) or fight (remember St. Peter in the garden with a sword?)  Things get tense – and we are informed it is “natural” to feel the pull to one response or the other.  Or sometimes we are paralyzed, as our minds can’t decide which to do – and the energy is release, and instead of one or the other…we simply get more anxious, more agitated.

Been there, done that, have the hole in the ground because my head was spinning so fast it turned my body into a drill bit.  Fight or Flee – I want to do both right now – and so I look like Shaggy on the old scoobydo cartoons – feeting moving faster then the eye can perceive – and going no where.

For those of us whom God has claimed in the waters of Baptism – there is actually another option.  It requires something more than fight or flight.

It takes remember that God is God.  That He is our refuge, our strength – as Martin Luther said – he is our Fortress.   (that hymn btw is not the anthem of a warrior, but the lament of those needing refuge and their joy in finding it in Christ)

The option is to trust.  To have confidence in all of God’s promises – not just about being our refuge, but indeed seeing how God will bless us even more.   Taking refuge as Ruth did, in God is about more than spending time in His sanctuary, it is realizing that He has made us His sanctuary.  To know that God has called us to these times and these places – to testify of His love, to reveal to people His will, that He doesn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked – that He desires to bring people to reconciliation and repentance, to have Him the trust in Him – even to the extent of what He teaches.

Trust and Testify.

To know He is God, to intimately, deeply, without reservation know it. To know He is our refuge, our sanctuary.  Our Hope, our love.

To testify to that – to show others how He has saved us from sin, how being in His presence, death is no longer something to be feared,   To realize we don’t have to reach out to  Him, but He has us in the firmly in His grasp.

Lord, help us to realize that when we cry out – Lord Have Mercy, it is for the same reason Luther said we pray “They will be done”.  Not because You will not, but that we would know You have.  AMEN.

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